Junior League of Tampa marks 85 years
Helen "Robbie" Williams "was blown away," said Junior League of Tampa incoming president Allison Burden, when the chapter named her Sustainer of the Year for ongoing volunteerism after age 40. Williams wasn't overwhelmed by the honor, but by the sight of her daughter standing at the podium. Williams thought Col. Melissa "Boo" Markham Weydert was in Iraq serving with the Air Force.
"The family kept her return a secret until that moment,'' said Burden, who took the gavel that night from outgoing president Betsy Graham.
Board member Nicole Hubbard was also honored, as the Inspiring Leader of the Year. The May 10 dinner at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts marked the club's 85th year of volunteer work to improve the community through education and charity.
Royal Swan Ball
New Year's Eve came early — or late — for guests at the first Royal Swan Ball organized by Kevin Morrill of Brooksville. The Westin Harbour Island hotel turned its ballroom into the Cocoanut Grove nightclub, the famed Hollywood celebrity bar — site of six Academy Award ceremonies — that was inside the old Ambassador Hotel. Sala's Polynesian Revue, Arthur Murray studio dancers and singers Corinne Bach and Lisa Casalino entertained the mostly black-tie crowd May 14.
Emcee Shannon Rose announced the danceable tunes, decade by decade from the 1930s to the 1960s, played by the Boulevard Jazz orchestra. At midnight, 900 balloons dropped from the ceiling, timed to Morrill's toast: "To charity, culture and champagne.''
Morrill chose the Shriners Hospitals for Children to be the beneficiary of this year's gala. Patient Cassandra Palanza gave a testimonial as Bethanne Demas passed out donation cards to the nearly 200 guests.
Tuxes & Tails
Tongues haven't stopped wagging since Bob Reina stunned Humane Society of Tampa Bay supporters at the annual Tuxes & Tails celebrity pet fashion show. Everybody's barking about his surprise donation of $250,000 at the May 14 event at the Tampa Convention Center.
The crowd yelped, including the evening's hosts, Cynthia Smoot and Russell Rhodes, WTVT-Ch. 13 anchors. When live and silent auctions were added to Reina's check, the net proceeds set a record at $400,000. The money will go to the campaign to open an animal health center next to the Armenia Avenue shelter.
More good news: Tuxes & Tails' guests adopted 17 of the 27 cats and dogs before winding down to live music and cigars along the Riverwalk.
Wheels of Success RACE awards
Cars for Caregivers, Wheels of Success' newest transportation solution for low- and moderate-income people, launched with a $29,000 donation from Tampa General Hospital Foundation at the fifth RACE awards luncheon.
"That means at least 16 and maybe even 20 caregivers will get cars," said Susan Jacobs, Wheels of Success founder.
Emcee Jack Harris worked hard to get 250 guests to match those funds May 13 at A La Carte Event Pavilion. They got close, $24,000, thanks to the silent auction.
Sharon Painter, chairman of Rebuild Tampa Bay won the No. 1 fan Hub Cap award. Tampa General Hospital won Drivers of the Year and Bank of America earned the Community Champion award. State Farm Insurance and Toyota of Tampa Bay share the Crews of the Year honor.